Dawnbringer Karma Fundraiser: Riot Games and ImpactAssets
Riot games is the developer and publisher of League of Legends, one of the most played games in the world. League of Legends is a “triple-A” title played on PC. It has revolutionized free-to-play gaming, game-as-a-service production, and has driven the professionalization and maturation of esports. League of Legends was released in 2009, growing explosively year-over-year, with over 100 million monthly players from around the globe.
In 2016 Riot started performing research projects to better understand the needs and social values of its playerbase, at both a global and regional scale. Since then, Riot has developed a robust understanding into the impact areas of players around the world.
Riot addresses social needs by a tiering system based on scale: Global, Local, and Personal. This strategic framework allows Riot to spread its resources across variable scales effectively – particularly in addressing issues specific to regions where League of Legends players live.
The strategy of Riot Games’ 2020 in-game fundraiser, “Dawnbringer Karma,” was to host a global campaign to generate funding for charitable organizations or programs at a regional level – to mobilize players to come together and achieve real impact in their own communities while participating in a global event. Through this campaign Riot addressed a new and particularly difficult conundrum – how to navigate the legal and regulatory structures to distribute grant funding to 45 international nonprofits from a global ecommerce campaign.
To tackle this conundrum, Riot Games partnered with ImpactAssets, a leading facilitator of Donor Advised Fund (DAF) grant making and investments. Riot was able to create a DAF (named “Riot Games Social Impact Fund”) with ImpactAssets to handle all of the commercial co-venture requirements which would then allow players to vote on one of three local nonprofits in their communities which would receive a majority of the charity funding raised.
Riot produces aesthetic changes to the game and sells them as microtransactions. The most popular of these aesthetic changes are “skins,” or costumes for the playable characters in the game. The four-week Dawnbringer Karma campaign created a new skin (the company’s 1000th), and other digital products including recolorizations (“chromas”), icons, emotes, and loading borders. They packaged these items into bundles, ranging from ~$4 to ~$55 USD where all proceeds would be donated to ImpactAssets. Players who purchased the top tier bundle received a special icon which indicated to other players that they supported this charity campaign at the highest contribution level.
Each of the 15 global offices was asked to identify 3 unique, local nonprofits that would be resonant with their local communities. In partnership with ImpactAssets, the social impact team then had to perform due diligence, program scoping, budgeting and ultimately identifying specific outcomes that its community of players could support across all of the 45 nonprofits selected.
From the funding raised, Riot then created regional “charity pools” based on the proportion of sales of the digital items per region. Players could then vote for one of the three local nonprofits on a voting hub within the League of Legends game. The winning nonprofit in each region received 50% of the region’s charity pool and the other nonprofits received 25% each. Riot guaranteed a minimum of $10,000 USD per each participating charity. ImpactAssets then handled the disbursement to the local nonprofits after all of the votes had been tallied.
The products generated roughly $6.01 million worldwide, more than 50% over projections. The vast majority of sales came from the skin alone, followed by the top tier bundle priced. Riot also saw a bump in players who purchased the champion, Karma, who had never played the character before in order to support the charity. The in-game voting hub saw far above average click-through engagement with over 6.9 million unique votes globally.
Additionally, selected nonprofits reported that they saw a large spike in additional donations and engagement during the window in which the voting hub was promoted.
When surveyed, players were highly satisfied with the campaign (4.2 / 5), satisfied with the charity choices (4 / 5) and thought that this campaign made them “proud to be a gamer” (4.2 / 5), which is one of Riot’s top metrics for measuring player sentiment.